The Mask of ZorroI've been following Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio's screenwriting site Wordplay for some time, and I figured I should watch this since it's one of their big successes (Aladdin being their biggest, I think.)
I was pretty eh about it, I guess. The cheese factor seemed really high. Was that one bit a nod to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, or just a ripoff? Let's introduce this idea about progressing through circles and never use it. I can't think of anything really coherent to say as criticism, but neither can I find any praise.
200 CigarettesContinuing my Janeane Garofalo catch-up, we have a title set in 1981 that is in no way dependent upon being 1981 or observably set in 1981, other than that the soundtrack used all music from that period. Oh yeah, and I guess nobody was worried about AIDS. Not particularly funny, not particularly good stories, didn't lead up to anything exciting as a big finish. Managed to create a fairly large number of distinct characters, but mostly via caricature.
Saving Private RyanWell, impressively convincing war footage. War sure is hell. The story at the core is goofy and manipulative. (When they finally find Ryan, and he doesn't want to come back, somebody says "We lost two of our guys finding you." Umm, no, you lost one of your guys because he was an idiot and tried to save a kid, and you lost the other guy because you decided to take out a machine gun nest that had nothing to do with finding Ryan.)
It felt like I constantly was feeling the tugging of a screenwriter; "now this will happen". And all for what? What was the lesson, the moral, the theme being played out? "Good people die in war"? "War is hell"? Sorry, I can think of lots of better ways to tell us this story.
What is the point of showing us the translator guy finally stopping a bunch of retreating Germans, talking to them, and then shooting one? It's not even from anybody's POV--if it were from the translator's POV, we'd understand what was being said! I have no idea what either the screenwriter or the director intended to communicate with that scene, because it didn't communicate anything to me. (I believe I've seen discussion on websites wondering whether this was the German guy they had let go before, and I could see how people might wonder that, since that way it would at least make some kind of sense.)
ShrekAnother Elliot & Rossio screenplay, except way back when, they mentioned on their BBS that they got out of the project before things went to hell the way they usually do, and they expected the project to be very different from what they wrote. They still got first billed credit, so maybe it was closer to what they wrote than they expected.
I laughed once. (Better than most comedies do for me.) Pointless bathroom humor, pointless this that and the other. Manipulative hand of the screenwriter: Fiona reveals her Matrix-like kung fu abilities, then explains to Shrek that maybe he shouldn't judge a book by its cover, throwing his words back at him. But why did she have Matrix-like kung fu abilities? So that there would be a nice action scene and so she could throw those words back at him. Sigh.
PleasantvilleI watched Shrek and Pleasantville back-to-back; when I asked for suggestions which one to watch first, I wasn't clear and people thought I meant which one to watch at all, and Pleasantville was the preference of everyone I asked.
For me it was another eh movie. I never figured out the rhyme or reason of why things turned to color--at first it seemed to be sex, and in the end it seemed to be emotion, and in between it maybe was 'experiencing things outside the range of traditional Pleasantville'--but if so it was totally unclear why Reese and Tobey's characters changed when they did. It would be fine if it was just random and etc., but the characters even call attention to the theory that it involves sex, so then it's annoying when no coherent explanation emerges. Maybe I missed something. But lots of unexplained bits: what was Don Knotts up to; if Tobey and Reese getting beamed in replace the original Bud and Mary Sue, why doesn't the original Bud return when Tobey beams out?
Some nice touches, though, like how everything has to start from the newcomers (e.g. the eventual violence). Also, William H. Macy is a wonderful actor. Or he gets really great parts, or something.
The Sixth SenseI'd had this spoiled for me long ago, so it was more like watching it for a second time (although there were some specific details I didn't know to watch for). The DVD includes a 'rules and clues' feature which explains some of the rules to make sure things are "fair" on second view, but I don't think they really knew what makes for fair rules. A rule like "things get cold when there are ANGRY ghosts around" is a cheesy rule so they wouldn't have to give things away from using the rule "things get cold when there are ANY ghosts around". The rule "he can only wear things he had on when he died" would make sense; the rule they use is "he can only wear things he was wearing the night he died", which is a cheap hack so they can keep it from being too obvious. The rule about the ghosts generally not affecting things (except when very affected, rather like Ghost) doesn't explain a lot of off-screen action; how come he can get through locked doors and not through doors with things blocking them?
Since this is kind of the whole point of the movie, it makes things disappointing. Moreover, the whole premise people generally offer: "a child psychologist tries to help a kid who sees dead people" actually reveals something that doesn't come out for a while in the movie--because it takes a while for the psychologist to come to believe the kid. So the movie takes its time, not letting us see the people the kid can see, and then arbitrarily deciding to show us when he sees things. Sometimes.
I feel like this was a great premise and idea for a sneaky twist, a la Fight Club, but it wasn't done right. The rules and aesthetics of the rules used in Fight Club and Memento totally appealed to me (there was one scene in Fight Club, that broke the rules, that the director says they did 'just for fun', but this was a HORRIBLE idea, since it was so incredibly early, even if it was just a throwaway joke it totally misled you about one character). The rules and aesthetics of the rules in Sixth Sense totally make me react with "cheesy author who didn't know how to pull this story off with good rules, so he cheated".